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Chicago Works 2022

Derek Lee McPhatter: Water Riot in Beta

September 16, 20227:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Captioning and ASL are provided for this performance.

About the Event

Theater-maker and writer Derek Lee McPhatter gives a sneak preview of Water Riot in Beta: a music-theater work that follows a troupe of water rights activists as they seek hope in a world transformed by global water crisis, unbridled network technologies, and resurgent fascism. Join the activists on their journey to stage a “damn the dam” protest inspired by social movements across history. Grounded in contemporary issues including climate anxiety and eco-grief, Water Riot in Beta  draws on the under-acknowledged legacy of Black voices in Punk, Electronic, and experimental contemporary music. 

McPhatter envisions Water Riot in Beta as the anchor production of his NightQueen performance suite. NightQueen is an affirmation of the diversity, beauty, creativity, and resilience of Black life in opposition to the modern-day forces that continue to debase Black communities. Ultimately, NightQueen will encompass three evening-length works that blend theater, music, and oral storytelling traditions to conjure a mythology reflecting the contemporary Black experience, as its narratives move through various worlds (including “the cloud,” rising tides, dying rivers, and melting ice) toward reservoirs of possibility.  

Water Riot in Beta is presented as part of Chicago Performs, the MCA’s annual weekend of groundbreaking new performances by Chicago artists. Each year, three artists share new works of performance, including pieces developed through the MCA’s In Progress series and the New Works Initiative Chicago Commission.

Derek Lee McPhatter is the 2022 recipient of the MCA’s Chicago Performance Commission, a program of the New Works Initiative. The Chicago Performance Commission fosters the artistic and professional growth of Chicago artists, providing consistent and comprehensive support for these local artists’ development. This commission also connects their work with the national and international performance scene.

Chicago Performs is organized by Tara Aisha Willis, Curator, with Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Assistant.

About the Artist

Derek Lee McPhatter is a Chicago-based theater-maker committed to new work that engages diverse communities, emphasizing narratives at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, and technology. McPhatter is a founding playwright with the Fire This Time Festival, and was featured in Harlem9’s 48 Hours in Harlem Festival—two Obie-award-winning platforms that champion Black playwrights and theater-makers in New York City. McPhatter has also served as librettist, book writer, and lyricist for five new music-theater works with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and is a 2021 Creative Capital Awardee. McPhatter is the MCA’s inaugural Chicago Performance Commission grantee through its New Works Initiative Program. 


Chicago Performs is supported by The New Works Initiative, which puts the creative process at the heart of the MCA’s relationship with Chicago by supporting the development of new performances and creative projects. 

Lead support for the New Works Initiative is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman. 

Lead support for the 2021–22 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is also provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman. 

Major support is provided by the Alphawood Foundation and by Julie and Larry Bernstein. 

Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and The Eisen Family Foundation; Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, N.A., Trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; and Anonymous. 

Additional generous support is provided by Ms. Shawn M. Donnelley and Dr. Christopher M. Kelly, Cynthia Hunt and Philip Rudolph, Ashlee Jacob, Anne L. Kaplan, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Enact, the MCA’s Performance & Public Programs affinity group. 

The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District. 

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